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Friday, March 27, 2020 9:01am ET by  


Interview with Dom Joly on Pilgrimage: The Trip to Istanbul

Coming to BBC Two on Friday 27 March

Why did you decide to join the pilgrimage?

I’m obsessed with travel and will jump at the chance to go anywhere to do anything that I haven’t done before. I just walked across Lebanon for my new book so I was raring to use my hiking boots on another challenge.  

Have you ever taken part in anything like this before?

I’ve been on several weird TV shows where I’ve been thrown in with other celebrities - this was a particularly good bunch and I’ve made a couple of solid friends. I normally travel on my own, so it was good for me to have to share the road with others.  

Did you have to prepare in advance for the pilgrimage? 

Not really. I was in pretty good walking shape and I take my dogs for long walks over the Cotswolds every day, so I adapted pretty easily, although I really missed my dogs.

Have you ever walked this far before?

Yes. I walked across Lebanon last year for 27 days and I’ve been trekking in the Himalayas when I was hunting the Yeti.

Did you find it hard? 

The walking was easy. Getting on with a big group was a lot harder as we all had different speeds, needs and life experiences. Overall it was a fabulous experience and something I wouldn’t have missed for the world.  

Tell me about your experience on the series?

For me the highlights was getting to walk through Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey. You see so much more of a country when you walk through it and these three countries are very much worth exploring. My favourite travel book ever is Between The Woods And The Water in which Patrick Leigh Fermor walked to Istanbul and I was thrilled to be walking in his footsteps.

What was your highlight? 

Climbing a mountain in Bulgaria was fabulous and a great achievement but I think the moment we came over a hill and saw Istanbul beneath us and the call to prayer started was a moment that I will never forget.

What was the hardest part?

Jean Paul Sartre once said that “Hell is other people.” He was right.

Are you affiliated to any religion. 

None. I am a committed non-believer.

If you don’t have any faith, what helps you explain the world? 

I don’t understand the world. I just believe in trying to be good and trying to do unto others as you would like to be done unto you. I don’t think that having an imaginary friend would help me make sense of anything but if it works for you and you don’t try to impede my life because of your faith, then crack on. 

Has the experience changed or increased your faith? 

My lack of faith remains absolutely consistent.

Has the experience changed you in any way?

Not really, except in that it has further broadened my horizons as travel always does. It has also made me some good friends which is one of the most important things in life.

How did you get on with the other pilgrims?  Was it a bonding experience for you all?

Pauline and Adrian are now my lifelong friends.

Have you stayed in touch with the other pilgrims?

There is a WhatsApp group but it’s not the most active…

Describe you’re your feelings/emotions when you reached the end of the pilgrimage and arrived in Istanbul...

Total elation, a sense of achievement, utter awe at the sight of the Golden Horn beneath us and a sense of sadness that the whole experience was over and that we would never do such a thing together again.

Would you do it again? 

In a heartbeat. Where do I sign up?

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